Part of why the weddings I photograph run so smoothly is because a couple months before your wedding, we have a Timeline Planning Meeting. During the meeting, we’ll go through your day in detail: your family portrait list, specific times and locations, appropriate buffer times, and so much more.
Here are a ton of wedding timeline planning tips!
Wedding timeline planning tips for each part of your wedding day
Suggested photography time: 1-2 hours
The preparation part of the day holds some of my favorite moments, because there is such variety in the “feels”!
It may start with a casual moment of a mother and a bridesmaid chatting over coffee. In another room, there’s the serene calm of a makeup artist applying eyelashes to the bride.
I like having an hour or two, because I’m able to observe and document some of these interactions.
Depending on the location, I’d also like to visit the groom to photograph him getting ready. If you opt for a 2nd photographer on the day of, you’ll also have full coverage on their side.
Many of my couples enjoy seeing what their spouse was doing in the morning. Some hit the driving range. Some play board games. It all adds to the story of your day.
- Put all of the important details in one area (ie: shoes, jewelry, invitations, hair pieces, etc.)
- Ideal buffer:
1:00pm Hair and makeup to be done
1:30-2:00pm Photographer arrives and photographs details and Getting Ready moments. Everyone gets dressed. Makeup and hair touchups
3:00pm Depart Getting Ready to First Look or Ceremony Location
First Look (and pre-ceremony portraits)
Suggested photography time: 1.5 hours
I like to break formals up into three sections: 30 minutes for immediate family. 30 minutes for bridal party. 30 minutes for the wedding couple.
Feel free to invite grandparents and extended family to this First Look session. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy your cocktail hour and reception knowing that all of your obligatory family formals have already been checked off!
First Look Tips:
If your family is often fashionably late, I’d recommend you to tell them to get there 15-30 minutes earlier than when we actually start portraits
I like to arrive to the ceremony location about 30 minutes before so that I can tuck my gear away and be sure that my team and I are good to go!
Suggested photography time: 1 hour
If you choose to not have a first look, we’ll photograph your family portraits during cocktail hour.
- Identify “photo captain(s)”. This person will know the important people and will be loud enough to get people “on deck” for the next portrait. My assistant and I will hustle and arrange groups quickly, but we am unable to control your family members who are of waiting in line at the bar or in the bathroom. 🙂
- 4 weeks before the wedding, we will work together to create a list of important groups to photograph. These groupings include extended family as well as specific groups of friends. When you create a group photo, ask yourself, “Will this photo be printed”? If it’s a yes, let’s add it. If it’s a no, then perhaps not.
- It will take 4-5 minutes to photograph each group.
If you want your reception details photographed, it’s ideal to do this before your guests enter the room. 15 minutes is ideal for reception details.
Suggested photography time: 3 hours (or 1.5 hours of dancing)
- If you are having a special “send off” (i.e.: bubbles, sparklers, etc.), it’ll be important to capture that. If not, then we prefer to stay for 1.5 hours of open dance floor after dinner has ended. After 1.5 hours, wedding dancing images start to look the same, except a bit sweatier.
- *CONTROVERSIAL* I feel that I am most un-useful during dinner service. Most do not want me photographing them eating, so I usually sit in a corner somewhere and twiddle my thumbs. This is the controversial part: I would like to eat when my wedding couple eats, so I never miss a beat. Typically, vendors are served after the guests are all served. By that time, we really should be getting into speeches, parent dances, and cake cutting. Instead, the entire wedding is waiting for the photographers, videographers, DJ, and band to scarf down their food. When I’ve politely asked the venue to feed me at the same time, many venue managers stare at me blankly and say, “We’ll feed you after everyone else”. I’m sure they walk into the kitchen and tell their colleagues about the “entitled photographer”. =P Some of my couples have been successful at asking their venues to feed their photographers at the same time. Three of the main benefits is that your timeline will run more smoothly, your vendors will be ready to roll, and there will be more time for open dancing. I’m happy to talk more about this issue. It’s something that all photographers face, but do not mention.
Suggested amount of time: 15 minutes
I’d like to steal you away for 10 minutes when the light is beautiful. Typically, we’ll do this while your guests are eating so you’re not missing out on any dancing.
These photographs will give us a completely separate feel than the portraits that we captured earlier. I often hear that couples love this 10 minute getaway, because they’re able to take a break from the reception and just be with each other. Some of my favorite epic portraits are taken during twilight when the sky lights up in a brilliant blue.
Some of my couples’ favorite photos were from their night portrait session. Take a look at some of the reviews here!
Sample wedding timeline for an afternoon ceremony
1:00-2:30 Getting ready (Photographers arrive at 1pm)
2:30-4:00pm First look and Pre-ceremony portraits (Immediate family, Bridal party, Bride+Groom)
4:00-4:30pm Transportation to Ceremony
4:30-5:00pm Buffer time
6:00-7:00pm Cocktail hour
7:00-11:00pm Reception (Photographers leave at 10pm)
Sample wedding timeline for Asian weddings with double tea ceremony
4:30-9:00am Getting ready (Photographers arrive at 7:00am)
9:00-9:30am Door Games/Buffer time
9:30-10:30am Tea Ceremony #1 and Family portraits
10:30-11:00 Transportation to next Tea Ceremony #2
11:00-12:00pm Tea Ceremony #2 and Family portraits
12:00-2:00pm Lunch and Getting ready (part 2 – Western outfits – white wedding dress)
2:00-3:30pm Portraits (in Western outfits)
4:00-5:00pm Western ceremony
5:00-6:00 Cocktail Hour
6:00-11:00pm Reception starts (Photographers leave at 10pm)
Sample wedding timeline for Indian wedding
5:00-9:00am Getting ready (Photographers arrive at 7:00am)
9:00-10:00am Baraat /Photograph mandap
10:00-1:00pm Hindu ceremony (part 1)
1:00pm-2:00pm Portraits (Immediate family, Bridal party, Bride+Groom) // Guests eat lunch
2:00-4:00pm Getting ready (part 2) // Bride + Groom change into reception outfit
4:00-5:30pm Portraits (part 2)
5:30-6:00 Photograph details
6:00-7:00pm Cocktail hour
7:00-12:00pm Reception (Photographers leave at 11:00pm or after the Vidai Ceremony)
Thanks for reading all of my wedding timeline planning tips!